Live Review: We Are Scientists with PAWS at Black Cat, Washington DC – 17th April 2014

By on Tuesday, 22nd April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

In the indie rock world where a band often fold after their first album if it didn’t do well commercially, We Are Scientists – Keith Murray (lead vocals / guitar) and Chris Cain (bass / backing vocals) are doing pretty well in terms of sheer longevity. By the time I saw them live for the first time in the summer of 2008, a couple months after their superb third album ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ hit the streets, they’d already honed their deadly combination of rocking tunes and hilarious stage banter. They released their fifth album ‘TV en Français’ in March and while the new LP sees the duo veer from their original formula concocted in a university dorm room in 2007 -it was inevitable they’d mature in sound, yeah? – I’m happy to report that their live show hasn’t changed and in fact, is better than ever.

The fully capitalised PAWS from Glasgow opened for the New York City-based act. I ran into their band members by accident in a pizza shop open late at night in Austin during SXSW 2013 when I was in the company of another band. I tried to make small talk with them while waiting in the queue for the toilet at 2 in the morning, and I’m not very charming at 2 AM in the morning after I’ve been out carousing with friends, I’m just not. (Awkward.) Thankfully, my next encounter with the Glaswegians was nowhere near as awkward. Nope. In DC, they rocked our faces off with their brand of brilliantly melodic punk.

I am almost uncomfortable to give them the label of ‘punk’ or even ‘garage’, because that would seem to indicate they have complete disregard for melody, and their beards are evidence that they’re super anti-establishment. But the weirdly wonderful thing about PAWS is that they’ve got a knack for writing memorable tunes with massive sounding guitar riffs that just beg for headbanging, accompanied by a relentless rhythm section. ‘Sore Tummy’, from their 2012 debut ‘Cokefloat!’, is probably their best known track, but on Thursday night, I favoured newer track ‘Narcissist’, not even lasting 2 minutes. Whether he planned the hilarity or not, newest band member and bass player Ryan Drever pointed out the location of an unfortunate rip in his jeans before the band lit into this song. Whoops! Their second album on Fat Cat, ‘Youth Culture Forever’, isn’t out until the 2nd of June in the UK, but it’s out earlier in America, and as the band were cheekily selling copies of the LP before the official releases, I couldn’t say no.

Having five albums to choose from gave We Are Scientists a lot of latitude when it came to their set list in Washington. When I mentioned their very funny stage presence, this also included audience participation this night in the form of two different fans getting up on stage and introducing themselves to the audience, after which they were razzed by Murray and Cain. The second punter probably was drunk ,as he made the regrettable admission that he hadn’t listened to or bought their last 2 albums. Naturally, the audience started laughing and booing and Murray quipped, “sorry dude, we can’t help you now”. The punter did get the audience’s favour back when he yelled for how great their second album and breakthrough release ‘With Love and Squalor’ was, and the crowd responded with thundering applause. I think about this moment as being a prime example of what has made We Are Scientists such a fan favourite: they’re the guys who make you laugh, the ones you want to go out and have drinks with because they’re fun, self-deprecating and entirely unpretentious. You’d never see punters be invited onstage like that at most any other show, would you?

But you’re probably reading this review for information on the music, I’m sure. Whether it had to do with ‘TV en Français’ having been released too closely to this North American tour or like that aforementioned fan with his 15 seconds of fame, people just aren’t buying their most recent albums, the newer songs just couldn’t compete with the bigger hits of their back catalogue. I think no matter how long they continue on gigging – and I assume it will be a long, long time to come, so don’t worry – they will always play ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ and ‘The Great Escape’ off ‘With Love and Squalor’, because they always cause mental crowd reactions, whether they’re playing a club or a festival. However, I’m pleased that others from their catalogue continue to be firm fan favourites, including the hooky ‘Rules Don’t Stop’, the oozy sleaziness of ‘Can’t Lose’ and the anthemic ‘After Hours’ (well, as anthemic as WAS dare to tread).

I had assumed that after ‘Barbara’ was released in 2010, I’d never hear ‘Lethal Enforcer’ from ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ ever again. Never say never. As the opening funky bass notes began, I couldn’t believe my ears. What? Are they really playing ‘Lethal Enforcer’? Year made. I also wondered if they would come out for an encore, as ‘The Great Escape’ had already been ticked off by the (first) time they said goodbye. Much to the delight of the crowd, they returned for one more, ‘Impatience’. By that time, I’d made it over to the bar to give my feet a rest and it was then that I noticed all the people who were not down the front; they’d chosen purposely to stand further back so they could cut some shapes and boy, were smooth moves being made the encore.

The crux of ‘Impatience’, besides its unyielding guitar, is the insistent voice of the song, pointing out to someone else that there’s no point of being impatient and that problems are only as big as you make them. As bad as us music journalists often make the music industry seem as a place where indie bands make no money and barely a career (and this is true), it was in that club Thursday night that I realised sometimes when you’re watching a gig like this, all of that stuff temporarily melts away from your consciousness and what you’re left with is seeing people who are actively appreciating live music. Ultimately, this is what we’re all in it for, isn’t it?

After the cut: We Are Scientists’ set list.

We Are Scientists Set List:
Dinosaurs
Dumb Luck
Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
I Don’t Bite
Rules Don’t Stop
Sprinkles
It’s a Hit
Courage
After Hours
Lethal Enforcer
Return the Favor
Lousy Reputation
Nice Guys
Central AC
Make It Easy
Can’t Lose
Slow Down
The Great Escape
//
Impatience

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us